On Sunday May 12, 1996 there was an accidental fire at a Chapel Hill Fraternity house, called Phi Gamma Delta. The fire killed five and injured three others. The building was seventy years old and had three stories plus a basement. The house had masonry exterior and wood interior structural components. There where nineteen bedrooms on the second floor, the first floor had several bedrooms and the presidential suite. The basement had an open area with a bar, sitting area, and dining room. Also had the kitchen, mechanical rooms, rest rooms, and several storage rooms. The basements open area, chapter room and a small reading room on the first floor had combustible interiors. All the other rooms had noncombustible interior finishes. Also there was an open stair way in the in the center of the building that connected all the stories.
The night before the fire there was a big graduation party with about three hundred people outside in the yard of the fraternity house. When the rain began to fall the party moved inside to the basement. Around ten o’clock most of the parents attending the party had left. Then about one o’clock the band left. When the disk jockey left around six o’clock he did not report anything unusual.
One of the members and his companion of the fraternity in room 206 were awaked by the sound of a smoke detector. The member decided to find out what was going on, so he started down to the first floor. Before reaching the first floor he saw smoke and fire. He went back to the room to tell his companion about the fire and then went to the west window fire escape. The companion did not follow and when he attempted to get her again he was not able to do so because the floor was too hot. He got out by the west end fire escape ladder. The companion did not escape.
Another member and his companion were awakened by the smoke detector on the third floor. They climbed out the window and tried to move along the roofs edge when they either jumped or fell into...